If you’re thinking of going green around your home, the bathroom is an ideal place to start. Because much of the water used in your home flows through here, installing low-flow fixtures conserves water and helps you save money on your water bill. But green updates don’t have to stop there. You can also use eco-friendly building materials and environmentally safe cleaning agents as well as improve air quality in your bathroom for a healthier, green space.
Water-saving plumbing devices, such as low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators and low-flow toilets are devices that you can install to help conserve our most essential natural resource. And don’t forget, low-flow devices can also save you hundreds of dollars a year in water costs.
Taking showers accounts for about 17 percent of household water use, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—more than 1.2 trillion gallons of water used each year. Modern low-flow showerheads deliver up to 2.5 gallons per minute—about half of the force of traditional heads—without sacrificing performance. This means cutting your water usage by 25 to 60 percent.
Low-Flow Faucet Aerators
Faucets account for more than 15 percent of indoor household water use, according to the EPA. That’s more than 1 trillion gallons of water used across the United States each year. If you don’t want to replace your current faucet with a low-flow model, you can install low-flow faucet aerators. These adjust your faucet flow rate to 2.5 gallons per minute. Installation is easy and you’ll start saving water right away.
The EPA says that toilets are the main source of water use in the home, accounting for nearly 30 percent of residential indoor water consumption. A low-flow model is an excellent way to lower your rate of water consumption and your water bill. Here’s how to remove your old toilet and install a new, low-flow model.
Eco-Friendly Building Materials
If you you’re going to completely remodel your bathroom, install environmentally friendly cabinetry, countertops and flooring. Much of the materials used for cabinetry, for example, are composite woods that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde. This and other types of harmful chemicals can detrimentally affect indoor air quality. You can avoid this by buying and installing cabinetry made from natural wood and sustainable materials such as bamboo.
Helpful Tip: Consider buying and installing salvaged cabinetry from local building materials reuse stores. This is a way of recycling cabinetry and materials that may contain VOCs.
You can replace old countertops with ones made of recycled content such as stone, rubber, paper, glass and other materials. Bio-composite countertops that are made of recycled paper and soy flour but resemble granite are also widely available. Concrete is another great option for countertops. Purchasing salvaged but undamaged countertops at building materials reuse stores are another way to reuse and recycle.
Flooring can also be eco-friendly. There are a number of options made of sustainably grown materials, such as cork and bamboo. Reclaimed lumber can also be used as flooring (not to mention for other uses around the home). You can find more information at the Building Materials Reuse Association’s (BMRA) or check out Habitat for Humanity’s list of reuse stores in your area. As with countertops, flooring materials can be constructed of recycled content. Flooring can be made out of recycled tiles, rubber and even stone. Natural linoleum is a blend of resins, oils, chalk and cork and is water-resistant.
It might seem like common sense that the most abrasive chemical bathroom cleaners are the best choice to effectively rid your bathroom of dirt, grime, mildew and mold. They are no doubt effective, but many common household cleaners can irritate skin, eyes and even the lungs.
As a rule of thumb, avoid products that are labeled as dangerous, poisonous, corrosive, highly flammable or combustible. Try to choose products that are low-VOC. Biodegradable, citrus- or pine-based cleaners are good eco-friendly choices.
There are a number of household substances that can be combined and used to create non-toxic, safe and effective cleaners. White vinegar, baking soda, dish detergent, and lemon juice are all substances that can be used with water and elbow grease to clean most household areas. Try sites like National Geographic’s Green Guide for eco-friendly cleaner recipes.
Helpful Tip: Use reusable cleaning products and tools such as mops, rags, sponges and scrub brushes. Avoid using paper towels, disposable cleaning cloths and scrubbers, etc. This saves money and reduces your environmental footprint.
Buy recycled paper products for bathroom use.
Buy products that use refillable containers and products with minimal packaging.
Keep Fresh Air Flowing
Good ventilation removes stale air and decreases the build-up of harmful compounds that can affect your health. If you want to keep away unpleasant smells and remove unwanted moisture that triggers mold and mildew, consider installing a bathroom exhaust fan, which vents old, stale air outdoors.
That’s it! It’s easy being green. Using just a couple of these eco-friendly suggestions goes a long way toward making your home healthier and a little more inexpensive to live in.